Casino have been busy racking up an impressive list of support slots in recent times – The Zutons, The Lightning Seeds and Jamie Webster to name a few, a veritable who’s who of Liverpool acts in there. Never a disappointing opening band, it was supporting The Zutons that the band first came to my attention with their soul / Motown meets indie sound capturing the attention.

Having previously performed for a while as The Sonder the band put their influence firmly on their sleeve changing to “Casino” in homage to Wigan Casino, one of the venue’s that was at the heart of the Northern Soul movement in the UK through the 60s and 70s.

I met with lead singer, Dillon Kelly to chat about these influences that are at the forefront of the band’s listening as well as their writing.

No Not One – Pastor T.L. Barrett

“The first track is ‘No not one‘, it’s hard to pick songs that weren’t obvious – ‘Moving on up‘ by Curtis Mayfield could have been there but I shifted to thinking about a track I’d love to have written, or maybe love to emulate at one point. This is a proper gospel song, uplifting one. This track is not on ‘Like a ship‘ but that album is probably my favourite this is on ‘Do Not Pass Me By‘. But it’s just an amazing tune, dead uplifting. When you put it on it’s a proper Sunday afternoon tune, picks you right up.”

“I can’t remember where I first heard it, it can’t have been that long ago – probably within the past five years. I remember listening to that album, the Like a Ship album, and I was blown away. I’d listened to gospel before but I didn’t know it could be that cool. It was late 60s early 70s when this came out and you can hear that, it feels it was contemporary at the time. Since I’ve got into them I can see his influence in other songs. I think Richard Ashcroft covered one, maybe ‘Like a ship‘ for the BBC a few years ago. I’ve noticed different people, Kayne West for example, using loads of samples from his music. It’s one of those, once you know it and you’re looking you start finding influence from his music but I just hadn’t heard it. I sat down and listened to that album in full and it was just ‘wow, amazing!'”

I’d listened to gospel before but I didn’t know it could be that cool

Discussing discovering old tracks, there’s record store digging, word of mouth – “I’m a abit of everything” according to Dillon “although I’ve got records but no record player. Typical of my life that. I’ve got loads that I can’t listen to, I’ve got loads of books I haven’t read. I’m like just buy it, I bought a Black Keyes limited edition recording of thier first gig but I’ve never heard it because I never bought a record player.”

“On Twitter and Instagram there’s loads of boss soul DJs, all the old northern soul DJs, posting stuff from YouTube. Youtube’s good because there’s just loads of stuff on there and on the streaming sites. Spotify, I know they’re perceived as the devil but there’s some great playlists that turn you on to stuff on there.”

It’s just like the old days of Northern Soul, the DJs sharing the tracks they love and turning people on to them – “The DJs though are all the same, all still there Richard Searling for example – I’m sure that’s where I heard the next track, via him. These DJs are all still posting and uncovering music. It’s an endless source of knowledge – 50 odd years of that music. Definitely good to make use of that knowledge whilst we still can.”

Hold On – Judy Freeman + Blackrock

“When I was thinking about the theme again it was for me about what would I love to have written. I don’t think I’d be capable of writing something like this, but maybe in the future. This is one that springs to mind. An unbelievable four or five minutes. It builds up from that start and the power in her voice. She sounds like she’s from a bit of a gospel background. So you’ve got that power and such an uplifting positive message.”

“Then the band behind her, I don’t know much about them to be honest. I know this track was a b-side to another one from the album called ‘Walk a mile in my shoes‘, which again is another dead uplifting song. In terms of songwriters I had a look at the actual disc, the picture of it on the record itself. It just says ‘Sams’ as the songwriter which I couldn’t find anything more about really. Some of these old tunes have that, where you have to dig a bit, it’s part of the charm. When you don’t know that much about people and you have the look hard and find out what you’re listening to.”

“I don’t know how many people would listen to this now, the album, it’s from ’71, ’73? It’s only recently been put onto Spotify. I don’t know how much recognition they would have got at the time, maybe not much? And there’s loads of people like that. It’s fascinating. There’s another person called Gloria Ann Taylor, I could have picked one of her tracks, but she was the same, made a boss album in the 70s then completely forgotten about by the 00s. Then, by the time she got going again she passed away after recording just a few demos. I love all of that side, it adds to it, listening to music and then finding out there’s that bit of a story behind it.”

“To be honest, this is probably what I listen to most, all those old soul women. There’s loads of people now I’ve come across like Little Ann for example. I don’t know what these people were like in the 70s but you never hear these people’s names – Tommie Young being another one. Just a massive influence on the way I try and write and an influence on how I try to sing as I’ve got older as well. Trying to emulate strong soul women, probably no good for my vocal chords though.”

“When it comes to influencing writing I think, for me, it’s just noodling round. When you listen to stuff that much you play around and it comes out without noticing it. Only listening back it jumps out and you identify stuff. Other times it can be ‘right’ what’s going on there, I’m going to learn the chords, how it moves, what is making that so good. I’ll break it apart and learn the parts. I’m never good enough to play them anyway so I end up with some different version of what they had anyway. Then it blends in with your other influences. But this song – I’d love to have written it and that message, ‘hold on‘ – the lyrics is the type of stuff that should be put out into the world. There’s a lot of misery and songs like that are good and what’s needed.”

SUch a night – Dr John

“Dr John, obviously a legend for New Orleans. this is on his best known album ‘Right place, wrong time‘. This just has such good memories though. I first heard this tune when we were in lockdown after COVID when it all first kicked in. I started listening to full albums with nothing else to do, get on the ale every night, light the fire in the garden – listening to all of it, right into all the 70s, the Americana. Eagles and that stuff.”

“This is good memories of a bad time and all the music I started listening to coming out of it. ‘Such a night‘ always reminds me of being bladdered in the garden with my dad. Another song I’d love to have written or I’d love to write in the future.”

“I’ve always been into soul music, Motown, but it wasn’t something that was given to me by someone else like my parents. But over the past 6 / 7 years since we started the band it’s changed. When we started, performing as The Sonder, we just wanted to be The La’s – them being local to us. Obviously some of that stuff isn’t too much of a jump into the soul stuff. Then gradually as I got older that soul influence, the Northern Soul stuff, all just sort of mixing up to the point where I wasn’t really listening to anything else and then it started coming out in the music. We changed our name to Casino partly to fit with that direction and go fully into it. Now we are, I think we’re fully immersed in the soul thing, it’ll show more as we get older and record newer stuff. There’s influences there but it’s stronger in the newer stuff we’re recording now.”

“Once we get going the listening as a band becomes really eclectic. In the van we play all the jazz, soul stuff – we love Gil Scott-Heron, we listen to lots of Ian Dury, all that stuff. Even a bit of reggae, we all love hip hop as well. But loads of jazz, loads of blues. Then stuff that’s typical for lads like us as well, so Artic Monkeys, Black Keys. Both new and old Arctic Monkey’s, in fact they’re my band. That band when you’re growing up who are yours – that’s Arctic Monkeys. I respect everything they’re doing, they change from one album to another which can be unheard of nowadays. Bowie and that might have done it back in the day but you get artists churning out the same album for 20 years. I don’t think I’d have been in a band without listening to them. “

“In Liverpool there’s good stuff as well, he’s become a mate but MT jones supported us at the hanger 34 gig we did with Ruby J. He’s based in Liverpool but from over the water, he’s proper soulful, his voice is amazing. Probably my favourite out of the local bands emerging with us. We like Brooke Combe as well, she’s Scottish but based in Liverpool – an honorary Scouser now.”

As for the future for Casino – “We’ve been in studio with Sean from The Zutons producing a new track so hoping to be back soon to finish off. We’ve got loads of tunes that we’re figuring out, hopefully back in before Christmas but if not then full pelt next year.”

Interview by : Dave Sparks | First published 12th December 2023.

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